Film: “Collateral Beauty”; Director: David Frankel; Cast: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Ann Dowd, Mary Beth Peil, Kylie Rogers, Liza Colon-Zayas and Natalie Gold; Rating: ***1/2
“Tomorrow is not promised” and “Nothing is really dead if you look at it right” — these two sentences among the dialogues sound like messages that surface during the viewing of “Collateral Beauty”.
A philosophical film that serves as a catalyst, “Collateral Beauty”, with its sentimental portrayal of the loss of a loved one, leaves a lasting impression in a spiritual way, if you watch the film without dissecting it ethically or else you would be left disgusted.
Two years after the unexpected death of his daughter, Howard (Will Smith), an advertising maverick and entrepreneur, is still reeling under the loss. He becomes a recluse who rides his bike furiously into traffic to tempt fate and shuns old friends Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena), who are his business partners with minority stakes.
In his depressive state of mind, Howard writes letters to the three abstractions – Death, Time and Love, to voice his general displeasure.
Meanwhile, his agency is in the red. Major accounts are lost and the company might go under unless the partners accept a stock buyout. But with Howard refusing to step out of his shell and discussing the issue, his business partners are forced to scheme a ploy to declare their grieving mentor and friend as mentally incompetent. They do this so that they can sell their company.
The plot is unconventional and absurd, yet convincing. The pairing of the three abstracts with Will’s business partners, add interesting dimensions to the narrative. Also the use of the domino structures, is an effective symbolism.
The strong performances of the ace cast, each of whom finds some point of emotional grounding to their character’s plight, undoubtedly adds depth to the film. While the film centres on Will Smith, he seems to be more of a supporting character in someone else’s story. His is a role really more of a facilitator than a fully-developed character, who mourns and laments and his suffering affects others.
He is aptly supported by Edward Northan as Whit, Kate Winslet as Claire, Michael Pena as Simon and Naomie Harris as Madeleine who has also lost her daughter and runs a support group. They are plain and simply sincere.
Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore and Keria Knightley as struggling actors portraying Death, Time and Love are outstanding. Mirren as the pushy actress, playing Death is impishly amusing and benefits from naturally being Mirren.
Technically, the film is glossy and the New York neighbourhood is well-captured by cinematographer Maryse Alberti’s wide shots.
Overall, literally and figuratively, one would like to conclude with a dialogue that Madeleine recalls she had with an old lady in the hospital, “Who are you losing’ Just make sure you notice the Collateral Beauty.”
The audience too, should do the same.
By Troy Ribeiro